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Eddy Matzger is a marathon skating legend and currently runs SkateFarm Thailand; one of the most unique and beautiful skate getaway destinations. After over 30 years and countless wins, Eddy has compiled his top 10 marathon skate tips!
Words by Eddy Matzger: I hate to admit it, but after almost 30 years of professional racing I’ve made so many pre-competition mistakes that you’d think I was still a rookie. Perhaps by telling you about some of my most memorable bloopers, you can avoid telling a similar tale and instead have the greatest marathon storybook finish ever.
1. Tighten your axles (and frame mounts)
Even if you carry a skate tool while racing, you’ll probably lose time and be out of luck if an axle comes loose, unless you’re an expert mechanic on the fly. My front axle jiggled loose one year at the Big Sur Marathon in California. Despite repeated efforts to hand tighten it and even attempts at taking stickers off my helmet and covering the axle holes, the bolt came out and my front wheel bounded away over the cliff. Thanks to my coach Dianne Holum ruthlessly pounding the concept of the heel push into my body and brain, I was able to limp to the finish and even sprint for the win. That wouldn’t be possible anymore these days though.
2. Don’t forget your helmet.
In the fog and daze of jet lag one year I forgot to put my helmet in the trunk of the car. When I arrived in Two Harbors there was no time to go back and get it. It seemed like I was doomed to be DQ’d. But Glen Koshi of Paradise saved the day by commandeering the helmet from one of the motorcycle race officials for me! This was in spite of the fact that he had racers who were direct competitors of mine!
3. Don’t forget your socks.
It’s not the end of the world, but forgetting your socks on race day can turn your heels into ground round if you’re not used to skating barefoot! I’ve made this very slip-up before. Now I always remember to pack my lucky socks, a pair of Asphalt Beach cycling socks. They are a little thinner than the socks I normally wear, which allows me to tighten my skates a little bit more than normal without totally cutting off circulation. I’ve got my purple pair in the bag already!
4. Set your watch (or your alarm) to the correct time so you don’t miss the start.
One year I drove all night to get to a race in Las Vegas and fell asleep in the car waiting for the start! The start gun woke me up and it took 9 out of 10K to work my way through 1000 skaters to get to the front! Many of us are flying in from afar, and some from totally different time zones, so get in the right zone. You don’t want to wake up and think you have all the time in the world because your watch is set to Pacific or Mountain Standard Time!
5. Test your laces the day before.
Imagine my horror one year about one minute before the start when I decided to cinch my skates up another notch and broke my laces at the top eyelet! These were the days before ratchet buckles as well. All I could do was quickly pull them out of two holes on one side and tie them up the best I could, minus a bunch of ankle support!
6. Wear appropriate clothing.
Back in 1988 I actually won the first race I ever entered, a 50K in Malibu, California, wearing 5-wheel inline “skeelers”, Mexican shorts, and a tank top. Many skaters, like the Muse brothers, were still in quads but sporting their team USA skinsuits. I got disqualified because of the fine print in the waiver which said that tank tops were not allowed! To race director Jonathan Seutter’s credit however, he was just trying to make the top echelons of skate racing look more professional. Luckily the Northshore marathon encourages costumed skaters and even rewards them! Long live tank tops and That said, it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a pair of arm warmers and tights in case the mercury decides to dip to 37 degrees Fahrenheit like it did one year!
7. Pack your skates!
One time I inadvertently left my skates in Boston and had a 10K race in New York’s Central Park. When I realized my error, it was already too late to retrieve them, so I had to skate the race in my short wheelbase recreational skates. My competitors were licking their chops at the start line thinking they were going to have some easy pickings, but New York’s strongest at the time, Remy Chait, only managed a not so close second place. There’s no way I could get away with shenanigans like that any more these days!
8. Don’t get lost in selfie mode
Back before selfies were fashionable, I used to carry a video camera at all times and film before, during and after races. Looking through the lens I rarely took the time to look down and notice the pavement or other obstacles. At the start of the Northshore one year I tripped over electrical cords taped to the pavement and hit the pavement so hard it burst the bursa of my left elbow and drew blood too. If only I had been more aware of my surroundings, I wouldn’t have had to be in pain before the race even started!
9. Think Safety (pins)!
I used to wait until the last minute to put on my race number, until I forgot to bring my safety pins one year and had to tuck my number in my shorts and pull it out as I went over the finish. Now I affix my numbers to my uniform the night before, as well as attach my timing chip to my skate securely.
10. Leave your worries behind.
When I didn’t have hundreds of races under my belt yet, I would be a bundle of nerves and pull up to the start line feeling like I had forgotten everything my coach had ever taught me. As soon as the race started I was in the moment and forgot about all the fretting, but I had wasted a lot of nervous energy and had less to give during the race. Now I spend the time before a race thinking about all the good moments I had training and all the times I felt strong. I channel all that good energy and visualize a great race where I stay with every surge and have legs that never tire. May we all have a race like that this coming Saturday!